A Mother’s Rights #12: You have the right to receive help.

Please God do not try and do everything yourself. There is not a single ounce of shame in having someone else drive your kids to school, deliver your groceries, do your taxes, carpool your kids to events, clean your house, organize your closets, move your furniture, do your Target run, return your library books or WHATEVER you need done.

 

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We came from villages. It is an odd custom we have in this country to raise and parent and get everything done within our tiny family unit. Where is the time to breathe? If we feel pressed for time it’s because we are doing all the things that entire villages used to do for and with each other.

Imagine if you had a whole tribe full of people who could hold your bag and your coffee and watch your baby while you went to the bathroom. Or who could take your kids on a walk while you took a nap. Or if you had to only make dinner once a week because every other night of the week a grandparent or neighbor or someone else made dinner for you and your family. Or, as in some indigenous tribes, if a close family member was in charge of disciplining your kids so you could just enjoy being with your children.

Asking for or accepting help is a sacred concept. And yes, it’s tough to ask for things that in a perfect world should be offered: like at a family gathering, asking for someone to hold your fussy baby so you can eat your dinner while everyone else is already eating dessert.  The word “help” used to not have the intrinsic sense of self-lack we’ve ascribed to it. As in, if I need help I must be lacking in some way. I must not be as independent as I need to be. The truth is, you need help because you weren’t built to do it all. None of us were.

How many times do you imagine yourself as lazy for not wanting to devote every waking hour to other people? “Oh, I’m feeling lazy tonight so I didn’t make a healthy dinner and I let the kids watch TV.” You are not lazy. If you are a decent parent, as you likely are if you are reading blogs about parenting, you are working hard. Revising your emotional and mental and physical output to meet your own mothering stamina is smart. Replenishing your energy is good. Taking a break is not lazy, it’s wise. And so is asking for help.

How did we go from feeling fine as carefree childless people with non-stop free time…literally endless hours of doing whatever our single brains told us to do…. to judging ourselves for burning out from the non-stop hours of service we give to our children?  With children, free time became parenting time.

We must not make the mistake of thinking that tired=lazy or that worn-out=weak. As a mother, you are dealing with untethered toddler or teenage emotions. You are creating and dispensing milk from your own body. You are cleaning up vomit from sheets at 2am. You are literally attending to the feces of other human beings for YEARS. You are not lazy or weak for wanting someone to bring a cooked meal to your door or clean your bathroom for you.

To bring our village back, we need to be visible. To ourselves and to others. To say what we want and need out loud.

Tied into this, of course, for a lot of us is that we have a hard time receiving good things. Often we don’t even know what we’re supposed to be asking for. Or what it is that we’re not receiving because we don’t know how to recognize its absence.

This can be delicate territory for partners who are not used to contributing equally to household tasks. When you have children, suddenly it becomes glaringly offensive if your partner doesn’t do dishes or laundry and never has. It becomes necessary for both partners to contribute to chores and errands in order to prevent burnout. And ideally, recognition for and sharing the invisible workload that we often forget we are doing. In this case, asking for help feels a lot like asking for equality, which can be a seismic shift. But with love and compassion, it can be broached. Especially if you start by seeing the value in the invisible, emotional, and unseen work of mothering.

In my mom’s interview, she spoke about how the stay-at-home moms she interviewed in the 70’s didn’t recognize their own work as moms because they didn’t really know how valuable it was. To ask for appreciation and receive the good that can come from being seen, we must see ourselves as good and recognize our own work and worth.

Instead of imagining yourself as needing to do the hard work of parenting and running a household all by yourself and feeling like a fat failure for struggling and wanting help, think of your parenting work as the work of 5 people that you are trying to do all by yourself. In this case, it’s not a failure to receive support and help. Help is natural and a necessity. Receiving help actually brings forward the wisdom of having a supportive family, a tribe, a village. It brings the unseen work you do out into the open where it can be seen and acknowledged so hopefully, eventually help will be offered before you even need to ask.

 

A Mother’s Rights #10: You have the right to make eating easy.

 

My Irish great grandmother had 13 kids and spent some of her life working the family potato farm in Michigan. In the Midwest 1800’s, there weren’t refrigerators for home use, nor were there chicken nuggets or frozen pizza or oranges or boxed mac n’cheese. When I think of the labor that went into preparing a meal while also making sure that 13 CHILDREN didn’t somehow fall into the fire or die playing with farm equipment….let’s just say I’m thankful for Costco.

 

you have the right to make eating

 

As preparing food as gotten simpler, somehow expectations of grocery shopping and meal prep have skyrocketed into the extraordinary: organic, grass-fed, whole grain, non GMO, unprocessed, gluten-free, dairy-free, sustainably raised, locally harvested food. There’s some floating societal expectation that all of us have the money to buy high end, have the organizational prowess to meal prep for the week, and have the desire to spend time cooking meals that will magically delight every member of the family.

There’s also a message of what you should be doing to create health and wellness in your family. However, if trying to achieve these standards brings your wallet and stress level to the breaking point and you are the person suffering for it, then it’s not creating health at all.

I challenge you to discover how you can make buying and preparing food easier for yourself. Not healthier, but easier. Because, likely if you are reading this you are already working your ass off trying to keep everybody eating healthy.

When my oldest was 3, the savior of my world was some mom blogger who posted an article about monkey platters. These plates are a mini-buffet for kids who graze and can’t sit at a table for more than 20 seconds. The frustration that develops from trying to get a toddler to sit and eat will pretty much halt all of your own digestion, interrupt your meal 20 times, and end with nobody being happy.  Creating a monkey platter and allowing them to graze rather than sit at a table for a “meal” can relieve a vast amount of stress. It only took me 2 years to learn this.

So what works to create ease? Maybe stop fighting about whether your toddler needs to sit and eat and instead put out a monkey platter. Don’t stress over whether your 6 year old can have screen time with her cereal and just say yes to it if you need an extra 30 minutes to hit the snooze button. Your 10 year old is old enough to make his own toaster waffles- just think, my grandfather was likely plowing fields at 10 years old. So your child can operate a toaster for God’s sake and he will survive without homemade french toast every single day, unless making it truly brings you joy.

And dishes. This may get me in trouble, but I’m going to admit that when things are busy and time is short, I allow paper plates.  A couple dirty plates may not seem like a lot but there are five of us. Five plates times three meals and two snacks times three kids = 21 plates to wash every day. It’s not the 71 PLATES that my great grandmother would have had to wash using the same math, but she obviously was way tougher than me and likely did nothing but wash dishes for hours a day. Or more likely, every child had one plate and washed it themselves. Ok, I love that idea. To gain her strength and wisdom, I will give away all but 5 plates and start my potato diet tomorrow.

Meantime, on a day when there’s a diaper blowout or someone pees the bed or I have spilled my coffee all over the rug (seriously, how do you get coffee out of the rug) some recycled plates are forgivable.

Grocery delivery, printable meal plans, and meal-kits brought to your door are all wonderful, too. Any way that you can loosen your standards if they feel too tight, if they are creating stress for you, is good. Identify what’s not working for you and aim for what might work. Try something new and simple. If your 7 year old wants to eat under the table and it means he won’t argue about eating, great. Try it for a week. Give them granola bars and smoothies for lunch. Make things a little easier on yourself. Let the expectations go just a little. You can always make a change whenever you need or want to.

Food is even more nourishing when stress is removed from the equation.

 

 

 

A Mother’s Rights #8: You have the right to explore who you are now.

Whew.

This could be 18 posts, not just the one. But I’ll try to keep it short. If you need more about how important it is to honor yourself and your journey and to find a way to fucking own it, you can find more here and here. And go to Oprah.com.

Here it is in a nutshell. You are important. Motherhood is transformational. You have a right to know who you are.

 

you have the right to explore who you are

 

Motherhood is as much about self-discovery as it is about discovering your children and the world through new eyes. As the spiritual guru Rajneesh said:

“The moment a child is born, the mother is also born. She never existed before. The woman existed, but the mother, never. A mother is something absolutely new.”

And that is you.

You may find yourself thinking new thoughts, feeling unsatisfied in relationships, wanting to leave a job behind, hoping to go to school, wanting more sex or not caring about things you used to think were essential: religion, fashion, status, whatever.

To mildly put it, keeping up with who you are improves your quality of life. You have every right to explore your feelings, thoughts, sensations, body, preferences, regrets, longings, nuances, hopes, and passions.

If self-exploration is new to you, future posts will include ways to help you get started. Or check out the services I offer to work with me.

Podcast Episode 2: Birthing in the 70’s Interview: Part 2

 

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Did your mom or grandma have access to birthing balls and acupressure for labor? Did she have a chance to sit around and chat with mom groups about what life was like after giving birth? Do you think her pediatrician or gynie (as my mom would say) checked in about how nursing was going?  If they were laboring in the U.S., most likely not!

La Leche League started in 1956 and the International Board of Lactation Consultant Examiners was not founded until 1985. Postpartum Support International was founded in 1987.  So how did moms back then get what they needed when there were not a lot of resources available beyond advice from family and friends? What were things like when Western medicine docs hadn’t yet caught up to the importance of women’s mental/emotional/spiritual and physical health care needs before during and after birthing?

Did your mother or grandmother have support? What kind of support did she have?

You will never know unless you ask. Women’s stories need to be shared, so if you haven’t yet heard the story of your birth or your mother’s birth, I highly encourage you to ask.

Talking to my mom about her birthing experience has given me a deep sense of appreciation for what I went through birthing my own kids. The resources, doulas, midwives, books, groups and available support that I had access to: those things did not exist for many women in 1970, including my mom. I learned where I may have gotten my passion for hearing and encouraging stories about major life events (As she shares in this episode, I was listening to stories like that as a baby in a baby carrier!)

In Part 2 of my mom’s interview, we pick up the story with my mom talking about how her life path changed after having babies and experiencing some postpartum depression- namely, entering a doctoral program and studying how new moms feel about being moms.

Isolation and connection, search for community (1:30)
Can a pregnant woman fit into a desk made for them (3:15)
Do mothers of young children value themselves and their work? (3:45)
Always bring coffee and donuts if you want people to show up (4:30)
Women working outside of the home viewed themselves differently than stay-at-home moms (6:00)
Being a mom has a job description and value (6:45)
The importance of new moms connecting with other new moms (8:00)
Modern birth centers vs being knocked out and laying on a gurney (9:00)
Steak and champagne after c-section (11:00)
Rapid fire questions (12:50)

 

 

 

“Where my yoga at?” says 13 year old me.

All things are tied together. When you cut a tree, whose roots connect with everything, you must ask its forgiveness or a star will fall out of the sky.

 

West before East

13 years old, backyard cement slab, suburban spiritual desert
cigarette smoking, Virginia Slims stolen from my long blonde dance teacher
she kept them next to the record player and my hands
hit the ceiling of her basement studio
when I jumped, really just looking for freedom
and the other side of the world, home to wisdom keepers
finding paths through movement to higher planes
unknown, they rang the bell in me, a light in the smoke,
a silent unseen hope, hope, hope

At 13, I wanted to feel more freedom than I was feeling. I sensed there was some element of explanation to myself and life that I needed but couldn’t locate. Where was the missing essential component, an unnamed magic that would explain all the various and separate activities, messes, mysteries, disappointments, awarenesses and relationships of life?

I needed a unifying theory and cosmic explanation for why some people were liars, why getting A’s mattered, why I was the last person in my whole class (or maybe galaxy) to get my period, why intuition didn’t count as intelligence, why sometimes a shout was not loud enough, why my mom’s church thought people were born with dirty souls, and why sometimes you lose the things you love.

Naming these questions, this demand for explanation didn’t come until later, like today in my 40’s as I am blending a green smoothie, hoping it doesn’t taste like leaves.

Back then there was just a sense that…. people around me believed they weren’t connected and somehow that wasn’t right and I knew it wasn’t right.  So gimme a cigarette, says 13 year old me.

I didn’t know there were others also seeking breadcrumbs on a path inward and searching for wisdom in life’s everything.  The absence of that knowledge created a loss that defined a lot of my teens and 20’s. It created devastating anxiety and depression, and big issues with trust and relationships- and it scared me to my bones.

In my neighborhood and culture growing up, the idea that nothing and no one was really interconnected with anything else created systems that validated us by measuring us.

Like the Catholic church, where they were happy to tell you what was right and wrong or good and bad for you and how well you were doing with your salvation….(don’t get too stressed out, though, because if you don’t do well, the consequence is ETERNAL HELLFIRE, so relax.)  Or friends motivated by insecurity from always needing to be better, who acted calculating and contradictory. There was a continual need to strive for pretty, thin, cool, smart, accepted. And, of course, a grading system at school that measured how well we could adjust to outside standards of what intelligence and accomplishment looked like. I felt assessed by the systems around me. Systems I didn’t support but was already in.

Why am I thinking of this today? Because like so many of us, I’m healing myself of those wounds from my past by diving passionately into the present.

Our authentic selves require expression, attention, love and security. When we have unresolved pain, there are parts of us that bind up or scab over. So even though we’re not actively in pain anymore, we’re still living from a place that has restriction and scar tissue, which affects our ability to move smoothly and freely through the world. Both within ourselves mind-body-soul and within our lives intention-action-manifestation.

I’m fully on board living authentically and seeking spiritual truths and unity. It all feels like the freedom I’d longed for as a kid, when I couldn’t identify why things felt disconnected or what I was missing. I wasn’t exposed back then to ancient wisdom traditions and texts, mystical studies, meditation, movement and meditation practices that had been teaching things like enlightenment and unity for thousands of years. And so to discover that this path exists and has existed for so long feels like I’ve been sitting on a pot of gold I never knew was there. I just thought I was sitting on a really uncomfortable chair.

And isn’t that everything? To discover the riches that are already here? We live in an infinite universe. The answers, the healing, the relationships, the love we seek is already here. But if we don’t find it by seeking it and focusing it into life, we are like the story of the fish not knowing they’re in water.

If we keep seeking deeper and deeper affirmations and questions, only then can the universe answer us. The avenues of living intuitively, mindfulness, meditation, yoga, breathwork, energy psychology, self-reflection, self-awareness, compassion and gratitude are what heals the scar tissues and enables us to evolve and live our lives free of energetic, mental, physical, and ethereal restrictions.

Freedom from the past, from the way it’s held in our bodies and minds allows us to be fully in the present. And focusing on the freedom in the present releases the ways our bodies and minds have held onto things.

I wish I could share this news with myself back when I when I was 13. And I can. Through releasing the restrictions that were formed through those years of struggle, and offering gratitude for the wisdom and resiliency gained. By intending that future lessons be gentle and learned through love. By doing that, I scoop her right off that cement and into the arms of the unconditional love that awaits right here with me in the present.

A Mother’s Rights #4: You have the right to revise your sex life as needed.

We are four posts into the 15 Mother’s Rights.  Ready for #4?

 

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When I interviewed my mom for my podcast. one of the things she said she wished had happened differently through her early parenting years was that there was more education about what happens to your pelvic floor and your sex life after giving birth.

These stories are different for every woman, but over the course of partnership, pregnancy, nursing, and parenting, our relationships to our bodies change.

Maybe we used to be kind of into our boobs, they used to feel sexy and now they feel like milk dispensers and you don’t want your partner anywhere near them.

Maybe our pelvic floor is like a loose stretched out rubber band and when we have sex, we’re so afraid pee will come out, we refuse to orgasm.

Maybe postpartum anxiety leaves us so stressed that the idea of getting intimate with someone is overwhelming and you’d rather read a book and take a bath.

Maybe you have weight that just won’t come off and you don’t feel like yourself, so how could you possibly want to share your body with someone else?

We have so many insecurities and expectations for ourselves. Adding an expectation that there is a minimum amount of sex we are required to have in order to fulfill our duty is an outdated notion. You do not need to meet a quota. Your sex life is YOUR sex life. If your libido is down and things have changed for you, talk to your partner and make some adjustments. Or get thee to a therapist and talk some more.

It doesn’t have to be a certain way. It is the way it is. Your relationship to your body and your sex life can change and grow. It’s ok.